Appendix:Finnish pronunciation

This page details the pronunciation of Standard Finnish (Standard Spoken Finnish, yleispuhekieli), which is, unless otherwise specified, the spoken variety used to document Finnish pronunciations on the English Wiktionary. It is the standard prestige variety used in e.g. formal discussions, newscasts and official speeches, and is the primary variety taught in schools.

English Wikipedia has an article on:

Key edit


  • IPA: The phoneme expressed in the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet). If the symbol is a link, it points to the relevant Wikipedia article.
  • Examples: A Finnish word containing the phoneme, both as short (ungeminated for consonants) and long (geminated for consonants), as available. Each word is accompanied by an audio clip.
  • English approximation: A rough approximation of the sound in an English word. This is only a rough approximation and should not be taken as an accurate representation of the sound.
  • Explanation: An explanation of the sound.
  • Notes: Additional notes in the form of footnotes.

IPA Examples English approximation Notes
d voida do [* 1]
h hyvä ham [* 2]
j joki yellow [* 3]
k koira tukka sky [* 4]
l lumi tulla lake [* 5]
m muu kumma much
n nuori mennä no
ŋ nki rengas king [* 6]
p poika seppä speak [* 4]
r ranne purra run (Scottish English) [* 7]
s silmä kissa see, she, zee [* 8]
t talvi katto stay [* 4]
ʋ vesi view (Indian English) [* 9]
Non-native consonants
b baari lobbari bite [* 10]
d disko additio do [* 10]
f fiksu leffa Finnish [* 11]
ɡ geeli bloggari get [* 10]
ʃ šakki pašša shoe [* 12]
IPA Example Explanation Notes
ː viisi
long vowel or geminated consonant [* 13]
. liuuttaa syllable boundary [* 14]
ˈ sana primary stress [* 15]
ˌ yhdyssana secondary stress [* 16]
ˣ sade‸
final gemination
() optional
IPA Examples English approximation Notes
Short Long
ɑ askel saada father [* 17]
e että tekee error [* 18]
i ilma viisi beat
o oksa kutoo bore [* 19]
u sulka uusi boot
y sydän tyyni few
æ käsi ääni cat
ø näkö säilöö bird (some varieties) [* 20]
Diphthongs (closing)[* 21]
IPA Examples Rough English approximation Notes
ɑi̯ maito car ease (non-rhotic accent)
ei̯ seistä fair ease (non-rhotic accent)
oi̯ koivu door ease (non-rhotic accent)
ui̯ kuiva who ease
yi̯ lyijy few eat
æi̯ päi baa ease (General American)
øi̯ öinen bird easy (some varieties)
ɑu̯ kausi car Uber (non-rhotic accent)
eu̯ neuvo werewolf (Southern England)
iu̯ hius wee woo
ou̯ lounas bore Uber (non-rhotic accent)
ey̯ leyhyä [* 22]
iy̯ kääriytyä [* 23]
æy̯ täysi
øy̯ löyly
Diphthongs (opening)[* 24]
ie̯ kieli be ending
uo̯ Suomi who ordered
yø̯ p few Americans

Notes edit

  1. ^ 'Native' /d/ is only found root-medially as a weak grade of /t/ under consonant gradation. More specifically, the phoneme can only appear between two vowels, either on its own or as part of /hd/. The realization of this phoneme varies by dialect and speaker.
  2. ^ Only ungeminated, except for one word: hihhuli. Exact realization varies slightly depending on the environment.
  3. ^ Only ungeminated.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Finnish plosives are always unaspirated.
  5. ^ Clear /l/, similar to Spanish, French and German, but unlike the dark /l/ of American English.
  6. ^ In native words always word-medial, and only in nk /ŋk/ (before k as a short consonant) or ng /ŋː/ (long, weak grade of nk). In foreign borrowings the phoneme may also occur before another consonant (in which environment it is always ungeminated) or word-finally.
  7. ^ Realized as a trill [r] ("rolled R"), like in Spanish rr, Italian and many Slavic languages. When ungeminated and intervocalic, it may also be a tap [ɾ], especially in faster speech.
  8. ^ Exhibits considerable variation depending on speaker and context. Usually somewhat retracted, [s̠] (voiceless alveolar retracted sibilant), but may be realized as a voiced [z] between vowels in fast speech, or (by some speakers) as [ʃ] after rounded vowels.
  9. ^ Only ungeminated. Realized as an approximant, not a fricative; roughly something between an English v and w.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 The foreign voiced plosives are pronounced as such in standard Finnish, at least by educated speakers. Pronouncing them as unvoiced, while considered rustic or folksy, is common among monolingual Finnish speakers (e.g. outside major cities).
  11. ^ Realized as [f] in Standard Finnish. In idiolects without [f], it is usually realized as /ʋ/ when ungeminated and /hʋ/ when geminated.
  12. ^ Not reliably distinguished from /s/ by all speakers for most words (when ambiguity is not a risk).
  13. ^ Follows the vowel or consonant it modifies.
  14. ^ Usually marked between vowels with an apostrophe, especially when representing the weak grade of k.
  15. ^ Falls on the first syllable.
  16. ^ Falls on the first syllable of later words as part of a compound.
  17. ^ A back vowel. The Finnish /ɑ/ is not necessarily quite a cardinal [ɑ]. Depending on the description, it might be near-open [ɑ̝] or central or near-back [ɑ̈]. It is also possible that the exact realization varies somewhat.
  18. ^ Mid vowel (mid front unrounded vowel), between [e] and [ɛ].
  19. ^ Mid vowel (mid back rounded vowel), between [o] and [ɔ].
  20. ^ Mid vowel (mid front rounded vowel), between [ø] and [œ].
  21. ^ Diphthongs ending in i can be present in any syllable. Diphthongs ending in u or y are in standard Finnish only present in root-initial or open syllables, while later closed syllables have a hiatus.
  22. ^ Rare in initial syllables.
  23. ^ Very rare in initial syllables and fairly uncommon in general.
  24. ^ Opening diphthongs are only present in root-initial syllables.

Table edit

Consonant phonemes
Labial Dental
Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ
Plosive p (b) t d k (ɡ)
Fricative (f) s (ʃ) h
Approximant ʋ j
Rhotic r
Lateral l
Front Central Back
Closing Opening
_i _u _y _e _o _ø
Back ɑ_ ɑi̯ ɑu̯
o_ oi̯ ou̯
u_ ui̯ uo̯
Front æ_ æi̯ æy̯
ø_ øi̯ øy̯
y_ yi̯ yø̯
Neutral e_ ei̯ eu̯ ey̯
i_ iu̯ iy̯ ie̯

Consonants edit

All consonants except /j/ and /ʋ/ may appear geminated. Geminated /h/ is however very rare.

Plosives edit

Standard Finnish native plosives are unvoiced and unaspirated: /k/, /p/, /t/.

An additional 'native' /d/ can be found as the weak grade of /t/ (under consonant gradation), and thus only occurs between vowels, either independently or as part of /hd/ (thus, native /d/ is never geminated). This originates as a spelling pronunciation by Swedish speakers learning Finnish during the 19th century, as it was spelled d (earlier also dh) in an attempt to represent /ð/, its pronunciation in the Southwest Finnish literary standard at the time. In other dialects, it may be realized as [r], [l], or lost, only leaving behind e.g. a glide. Even in Standard Finnish, the consonant may in rapid speech become an alveolar tap.

Recent borrowings can also contain the phonemes /b/, /d/ and /ɡ/, which are pronounced as voiced plosives, although in monolingual Finnish speech they may only be partially voiced, if at all. However, minimal pairs do exist.

For (potential) glottal stops, see final gemination below.

Fricatives edit

Native words only have two fricatives: /s/ and /h/. The pronunciation of /s/ is highly variable. It is often devoiced and somewhat retracted, but may be voiced between two vowels in fast speech, and may even become a /ʃ/ "sh-sound" after rounded vowels.

Two more fricatives can be found in loanwords: /f/ and /ʃ/ š. The latter is often pronounced as if it were /s/ if there is no risk of confusion.

Finnish v is not a fricative.

Rhotic edit

The single Finnish rhotic /r/ is a rolled R, but if ungeminated, may be realized as a tap between two vowels in rapid speech.

Lateral edit

Finnish /l/ is always a bright L, never a dark (velarized) L.

Nasals edit

Finnish has three nasals: /m/, /n/ and /ŋ/. While the first two are common and can appear in any position, /ŋ/ in native words is only found either as part of /ŋk/ nk or /ŋː/ ng between two vowels. In loanwords, it may appear as a short /ŋ/ even before other consonants or at the end of a word.

Approximants edit

/j/ and /ʋ/ are approximants in Finnish. The latter is spelled v, but is not a fricative.

Vowels edit

All vowels may appear short or long, and there is very little if any difference in quality between the short and long variants of the same vowel.

a is /ɑ/, a decidedly back vowel. y, ä and ö are /y/, /æ/ and /ø/ respectively, all front vowels. Finnish /e/, /o/ and /ø/ are mid vowels.

Standard Finnish has 18 diphthongs which are listed in the tables above.

Other features edit

Final gemination edit

See also: Finnish phonology § Sandhi on Wikipedia

Some Finnish words or word roots feature final gemination (also called boundary lengthening, Finnish: rajakahdennus), which is usually marked with /ˣ/ (Finnish: jäännöslopuke; see also the entry for this symbol). This feature (argued to be morphophonetic) originates from the loss of some final consonants (primarily -k or -h) always follows a vowel, and its realization depends on what follows it:

  • If /ˣ/ is followed by a consonant, the consonant becomes geminated if it isn't already.
  • If /ˣ/ is followed by a vowel or the end of the utterance, it usually manifests as a glottal stop [ʔ], which may or may not be geminated, and may even be completely omitted in rapid speech.

This feature is not indicated in the Finnish orthography, but results in minimal pairs (albeit marginal). It can at times even surface within words due to clitics (jonnekin) /ˈjonːeˣkin//ˈjonːekːin/ (respelled jonnekkin), even though final gemination does not affect possessive suffixes. However, there are cases in which final gemination has in effect become grammaticalized, such as the partitive singular of hamehametta, in which the geminated consonant is spelled with gemination.

In standard Finnish, final gemination occurs primarily in the following cases:

  • nominals:
    • (the nominative singular forms of) nominals belonging to type 48 ("hame"); for some speakers, may be missing in compounds if not the final component, more often in rapid speech
    • allative singular and plural forms of nominals
  • verbs:
    • first infinitive forms (dictionary forms)[† 1]
      note that the third-person singular present indicative does not have final gemination even if it is a homograph (i.e. spelled identically)
    • connegative forms of verbs (except for conditional, in all persons, and imperative, in all other persons than the second-person singular)
    • second-person singular imperative forms of verbs (identical with the indicative connegative)
  • adverbs:
  • the third-person possessive suffix -nsa

The following features may or may not have final gemination depending on the idiolect (speaker and variety):

  • nominals:
    • comitative forms of adjectives (i.e. when not followed by a possessive suffix)
  • verbs:
    • past passive participles (-ttu)
    • conditional connegative
  • the numeral kolme (three)
  • the pronoun itse (self)

Furthermore, in some dialects, final gemination is completely absent.

Suprasegmentals edit

Stress edit

Stress occurs on the first syllable of any given word. In compounds, secondary stress occurs at the beginning of each component word, which may result in stress falling on consecutive syllables if a component is only a single syllable.

Secondary stress also occurs roughly on odd syllables, although it may skip up to two light syllables if a heavy syllable follows (e.g. This kind of secondary stress is weaker than the phonemic secondary stress found in compound words, as described above. The placement of these secondary stresses can be described formulaically, as the Finnish pronunciations on Wiktionary often do. However, they are not phonemic and can depend on the speaker and context. Songs and poems, in particular, may take significant liberties.

Some suffixes may also incur secondary stress automatically, in which case they may 'steal' it from an immediately preceding syllable. Syllables containing (the start of) certain inflectional suffixes, including possessive suffixes, may also avoid secondary stress, by e.g. shifting it to the preceding syllable, even if it is a light syllable.

Sandhi edit

Finnish is rich in sandhi phenomena. Besides the final gemination listed above, there are instances of assimilation: /nk/ is generally realized as if it were [ŋk] and /np/ as [mp].

Further reading edit

See also edit

Footnotes edit

  1. ^ Some Helsinki slang first infinitive forms are an exception.